When a Family Christmas Letter Goes Terribly Wrong

Theresa (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, FILE)

Recently someone asked Miss Manners what she thinks of Christmas letters filled with sickening cheerfulness that nobody believes. Here’s an excerpt:

Dear Miss Manners: Every year we receive a Christmas letter from a couple we see frequently and therefore we are up-to-date on what’s going on in their family. Their annual letter seems to be nothing more than an opportunity to brag about vacations, vacation homes, their children’s careers and their purchases.

If there was a death in their family and thus a duty to mention it, it is reported as the best funeral ever! Of course, after the boasting has been thoroughly covered, the last sentence always includes a wish for our family to have a holiday filled with peace and joy.

We’ve all received these gushy, phony baloney missives, haven’t we? It’s enough already. In my family (filled with several genetically-gifted writers) we have a different tradition that I will share with you (with permission, of course). Those of you who think people want to hear about your new Mercedes or the prep school your kid was accepted into need to realize you’ve been seriously misled. Truth is beauty. Below is a letter from a family member which I eagerly anticipate every year and open with glee, knowing that I will be rolling on the ground laughing for days afterwards. My brave relative adopted six children after the age of fifty and hilarity has ensued. Read and learn from this unedited letter:

Dear Family,

2014 was a year of making memories with family and working on our bucket list. We tested out our $600 passports and drove to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls for a little glimpse of Heaven. A week at Camp Tecumseh and then off to the Dell’s for fun in the sun. The kids are enjoying my retirement.

School continues to be an ongoing challenge. Keeping Thomas and Cory on the bus requires daily prayer. Our last 2 bus drivers have left the state and are living somewhere under assumed names. As we speak I am navigating my way thru Pre, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 9th grades. Our teachers think that their student is the only one I have. I spend a lot of time figuring out who had what paper. Success. If I know the answers it is to Cory’s 2nd grade work. If it looks like Hebrew or writing in a pyramid then its Thomas’s 4th or Alex’s 9th. No parent wants to appear as a total idiot so when I find an impossible challenge I say, “I must have been absent that day”. (My kids all think I spent my youth in a hospital bed.)

Charlotte is taking her on line classes with a goal of teaching High School Science. She is busy caring for 2 year old Aaron, brand new baby Aidan, Bill and Bell Bell. Charlotte my daughter.. my best friend.. my special miracle.
This summer Alexandra spent a week at horse camp and we now need a Plan B for favorite animal. She is a freshman and loves it. She gets to leave all the testosterone at home and for a few hours escape to the solitude of a few thousand teenagers.

Buddy is in 5th grade and has completed the school music program on his beloved recorder. All wildlife has left the area. I now have a better understanding why parents’ home school. While shoveling 7 inches of snow 9 year old Thomas said, “Don’t worry Mom.. when I get a job and if you’re not already dead, I’ll buy you a snow-blower”. Truly I am blessed. 7 year old Cory, always observant, said he loves how my belly keeps moving even after I stop laughing. I’m grateful to have learned about this interesting skill. (You can always use an extra qualification on your resume.) Thankfully 4 year old Jesse has conquered the toilet thing as long as I sit next to him. I’m thinking this could get weird.

This year we tried bowling and our excursion was a normal family outing. After dismantling Jesse’s chair with a screw driver, management was able to extricate his captured leg. Then while assisting the equipment to facilitate expediency, Thomas’ arm was swallowed up by the ball return machine. Within minutes the screaming abated, the circuit breaker was turned back on and the other 200 bowlers were able to resume their game. I am happy to report that the owners are now off all prescription anti-anxiety drugs.

The kids are always teaching me new things. I’ve learned wifi is not wee fee, Transformers are not transgenders and the power button must be on to operate electronics. Most kids make shapes out of clouds but mine do varicose veins. It has been discovered that I’ve got a rabbit like thing taking shape right above my left knee. The blessings just keep coming…how fortunate that I didn’t pay for a tattoo. Days fly by breaking up fights, repairing the destruction, and bandaging boo boo’s. It’s easy to forget that the 5 little souls entrusted to me will spend eternity somewhere. My most important job is to show them the way and I worry that I may fall short. Recently Thomas said, “I need to watch the Passion of the Christ again so Jesus will know that I’m trying hard to not forget what he did for me”. (Sometimes I wonder who the student is.)

Periodically God sends people into my life to help me lift the load. My dear friend Dave who still answers the phone when we call for help. School counselors, Caroline and Nicole who time and again have gone above and beyond my expectations of kindness. Last but not least Ron and Andrew who recognized the handicap of daddyless boys, invested their time and made life better for my little men. All the above took Isaiah 6 verse 8 to heart and I am grateful.

To those of you that have joined me on this remarkable journey of laughter, tears, and chaos I can only say thank you. Your friendship and support are indispensable and most days I can feel you cheering me on. You know it is true what they say about the key to happiness…you have to find your gift and then give it away. I would hope my life would be a testament to the fact that God can use anybody.
Because of that Christmas Baby and His power to transform I have a life that matters.

THAT is my wish for you.

Merry Christmas,

Gayle and Alex, Buddy, Thomas, Cory, Jesse, Charlotte, Bill, Aaron, Aidan, and Bell Bell.

Be honest. Wouldn’t you rather receive this letter than another update about someone’s perfect kids?